Gautrain is a great initiative that has just been approved in South Africa. The idea is essentially to provide a very fast train link between Tshwane (Pretoria) and Johannesburg to cut down on the traffic on the Ben Schoeman highway (M1). It will also provide a super quick branch between Sandton and Johannesburg International Airport.

I think this is a great idea, it'll cut down on traffic, pollution, give hundreds of people jobs and provide a super quick way to get between the specified destinations. I'm keen on the JNB - Sandton link as it'll mean friends and family won't have to drive all the way to the airport when I come to visit :-). A similar link exists in Madrid and it saved me packets when I was living there.

However, whilst this is a great idea, the usual escalating cost issue has already occurred and they haven't even started building yet - the estimated costs have jumped from R7bn to R20bn.

To put this into perspective, Singh and Associates Strategic Solutions has come up with a few suggestions on what could be done with the R13bn extra:

  • Instead of a train you could buy some top of the range S-class Mercedes Benzes and park them nose to tail to form a "train" that would be long enough to go around the world.
  • Since most South Africans use minibus taxis instead of S-Class Mercedes Benz, you could run a fleet of taxis, free of charge to commuters, from Johannesburg to Pretoria with a taxi leaving each town every two minutes, maintain them at the AA rate of R2.50 per km, replace all the taxis every month and you would only run out of money after 50 years.
  • You could add 44 more lanes to the M1 highway.
  • If you prefer to walk, a good bricklayer, if he made little brick tiles using stacks of 30 R100 notes, could lay a blue paved walkway, 1m wide from Johannesburg to Pretoria. We would have R400 000 left over to pay the bricklayer for his work, which should only take half as long to finish as the Gautrain.
  • Or if you want smart people to figure this out, you could pay for a university degree for every single 19 year old Gauteng resident and ask them what to do with the money.

Source: Singh & Associates Strategic Solutions